Words || Caroline Overington
After I was asked to put together a summer reading list I thought: okay, what do people like to read over summer?
They want books they can pick up and put down by the pool. Books they can read on the plane. Books they can devour in one or two sittings, and get on with shopping and surfing and eating and drinking and laughing and splashing around.
And yet …
Summer is also the only time most of us have to read. We’re lucky that way, because all of Australia goes off at the same time – early December, if you’re lucky – and the gears don’t really start grinding again until the end of January, when the kids go back to school.
You can make a real commitment to reading in that time.
So, in that spirit, I’m going to make five recommendations.
The first one is for people who want the page-turner. The unapologetic dive into a good, fun book, the kind that makes you think, argh! What’s going to happen next?
Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher, The Midnight Line.
The New York Times has described it as “the one that breaks your heart.” Because the old Jack Reacher is there – tough as a one-time military cop would be – but there’s tenderness in this one. The guy’s lost. I guess we’ve always known that but here it’s on display. Nobody can go their whole life never being connected to anyone. You have to at least try with other human beings. It’s a good book.
And now comes the heavy-duty reading commitment:
The Border Trilogy, by Cormac McCarthy.
It’s not one book.
It’s three books: All The Pretty Horses; The Crossing; and Cities of the Plain.
It’s a decade long commitment by McCarthy to tell the story of America. That’s really it. He’s telling the story of young cowboys but it’s about growing up. It’s about friendship. It’s about loss. It’s about falling in love. I swear, there is a moment where one of his young heroes claps eyes on the girl who will be the ruination of him, and it’s the most extraordinary scene. You can see exactly what he sees in her, and how impossible it is, and his friend even tells him: forget it, she’s out of your league.
But the heart wants what it wants.
It will take more than one summer to read these books. It will take a lifetime because you’re going to want to do it again and again. You aren’t ever going to forget these characters. I can still see the young lad who goes in search of his Mum and finds her playing on the stage. He’s still a young teenager and actresses don’t have the best reputations in the towns where he’s from. He sits with his hat in his hands, and with hat and hands between his knees, and he watches her carefully as she comes out from behind the heavy curtains and does her thing. And later he sees her checking into the motel where she’s living and she’s being escorted up the staircase by a gentleman whose name he doesn’t know. It’s a hard scene to absorb: kid finding out that Mum’s got desires and passions that have become more commitment – more compelling and necessary to her – than mothering him.
You’ll never forget it.
And finally, if you have time this summer, read Working Class Man, by Jimmy Barnes.
You might think it’s a book about a rock star, but I promise you it’s not. It’s a love story. It’s about resilience. It’s about a man who recognized at age sixty that he was about to explode from the bottled up pain of his childhood. He felt like a fraud every time he stepped out of the house, but not because he was living somebody else’s life. He was dying inside. And this book will give you all the encouragement you need to tackle your own demons. You’ve been unhappy for a decade, maybe two? Well, we don’t get that many decades to enjoy. Do something about it. Go and see someone. Do it now. Because the upside for Jimmy – and maybe for you – has been a heart cracked wide open to the possibility of joy. Which is of course what Christmas – and summer – is all about.